INPEX Inventor’s Show – 2017

I just got back from the INPEX Inventor’s Show for 2017 – held in Pittsburgh, PA every year.

INPEX is an annual show for inventors from the US and internationally to showcase their products, meet with potential investors or licensees, and make new friends and acquaintances. INPEX is the sole surviving US inventor’s show – Yankee Inventors and Minnesota Inventors Congress both folded some years ago.

My purpose in attending is to meet new inventors and see if I see any products I might be able to help with licensing.

My Impressions of INPEX

InventHelp hosted the show in downtown Pittsburgh this year at the Lawrence Convention Center – last year they held the show in suburban Monroeville at the Monroeville Convention Center.

While there is certainly more glitz and glamor having the show in downtown Pittsburgh, I felt that the smaller, less glamorous Monroeville Convention Center really worked better for visitors on several levels. Why?

Parking in downtown Pittsburgh is challenging: the convention center parking (at $12 per day) fills to capacity very quickly, forcing visitors to forage as much as 6 or 7 blocks away to find parking at prices ranging from $7 – $10, many of the nearer lots are for leasing only. Local restaurants are quite a walk away from the convention center.

In Monroeville there were a variety of nice restaurants within walking or short driving distance away. Since parking was free and uncontested in Monroeville, getting lunch was a breeze, as was traffic to and from the show. As you can see, convenience, free parking, and easy access to restaurants are big values to me.

Enough about parking, etc.

The show itself was quite good with a variety of companies in attendance including HSN, Allstar Products and others. It appeared there were perhaps 400 US inventors in attendance and maybe 250 – 300 from Asia, principally China – a few from Europe.

The products on offer were a mix of ideas/hobbies and inventions – only some of which seemed to me to have real commercial potential.

There were a number of pet treats and similar items, children’s organizers, clothing items – not really inventions. There were a few interesting inventive items, including the Scroopula to easily remove cake and lasagna slices. One inventor had FiAir: a blow-dryer like item that could start a charcoal fire much more quickly, competitive with propane stoves. He has sold quite a number of the item over the years and would like to license it.

A key observation I had over 3 days was that many inventors had not fully thought through every aspect of their products. Many of inventions appeared to be solutions in search of a problem, cute, but not something someone would buy to solve a problem.

It is a common problem that our inventions are like our children: we love them even if no one else does.

INPEX was worth attending and I recommend it to anyone who wishes to see what new inventors are thinking.

Stay tuned!


Posted in INPEX, Invention, Inventors Show | Leave a comment

We’ll All Make Millions!

One of the biggest mistakes made by inventors is to blurt out exactly what is on their mind with no rational filter in place. “We’ll all make millions with this product!”


You are very excited about the potential of your new invention. To wit, you love it, all of your friends love it (or, at least that is what they tell you) and you just know there is nothing out there just like your product or, at least as good as your product. Right?

Wrong, almost none of what you have just thought is correct:

  • You love it ….. okay that is correct.
  • Your friends love it …. no, they love you and hope somehow this invention is going to work.
  • There is nothing out there just like your product, or at least as good as your product ….. Almost certainly not true, there is something like your product, maybe better.

Drink the Koolaid, but Don’t Give it to Anyone Else

Let me clarify one thing. I am not some sort of Spock-like character who believes that only logic and rational thinking matters, that passion and emotions are blindfolds that have no place in the business world.

Everyone who has ever succeeded at anything that matters, from Einstein to Steve Jobs, was emotional and passionate about what they were doing – driving them to work long, hard hours, day after day to improve their craft and their product and rebuff their critics.

You must fervently believe in what you are doing if you are to succeed – I call that ‘drinking the Koolaid’. But don’t give it to anyone else.

When you show your invention to a potential licensee or business partner, stick to the known objective facts. But use them to shape an exciting picture and future.

How big is the addressable market? What, specifically differentiates your invention from other similar products selling in the marketplace? Have you sold your product to others, and; if so, for how much to how many people? What do they say about the product? Is your product easier to use? Does it work better or last longer? Provide them with answers to as many such questions as you can and let the facts speak for themselves.

And, maybe, if you are very fortunate, and you present a compelling case …. those listening to you, evaluating the facts, may quietly think to themselves:

“We’ll all make millions with this product!”

Stay tuned!


Posted in Attitude, Emotions, Great products, Invention, Rational thinking, Shysters, We'll all make millions | Leave a comment

Conversations with an Invention Marketing Shyster – Part II


In the previous Part I post, I role played a story where an inventor, named Sam, had a conversation with a shyster invention marketing company (IMF) with the fictional name Intergalactic Marketing and Patents (IMAP).

Unfortunately, the legitimate IMFs are very few in number and the shyster IMFs, who appear much like slugs eating your garden after a spring deluge, seem to be everywhere.

In this post, Part II, inventor Susan has a conversation with Jim Bigdeelz at IMAP, just as Sam did in the previous post. As you’ll see, her conversation will go a bit differently from Sam’s conversation.

Here we go (again).

IMAP Call to Inventor Susan ————————————————————————-

IMAP: Hello, may I speak with Susan, please?

Susan: This is Susan.

IMAP: Hi, Susan, this is Jim Bigdeelz with Intergalactic Marketing and Patents. I wanted to follow up with you about your hair styling wand. Do your have a few minutes.

Susan Oh, yes. What did you think of my product?

IMAP: Susan, I hope you are sitting down.

We reviewed your product and, simply put, we believe it is a home run. We feel your product could sell many millions in the marketplace. We’d love to work with you to get it onto store shelves everywhere, into all the big box retailers. How does that sound to you?

Susan (a bit shocked): Well, that sounds, .. uhh .. great to me.

But, Mr. Bigdeelz, I must tell you, I have presented to a variety of retailers and, so far, no one seems interested. They tell me my product seems a bit pricey compared to similar products – they don’t think consumers will buy my Wavy Wand.

My customers tell me my product is far superior to anything they have seen and they love my product.The truth is, I have spent a lot of money on my product, I’m frustrated, just cannot seem to get any traction to the larger market.

How can you help me? What do you offer?

IMAP: Susan, we hear stories just like yours every day from our clients and it breaks our hearts. Here’s the deal: it is all about knowing the right contacts and also about making the right presentation to them.

We have relationships with all the key decision-makers at ‘big box’ retailers. Concerning presentation, prospective companies must be able to visualize your product immediately. This requires advanced CAD tools, like TurboCAD Deluxe for proper 2D and 3D renderings of your product. Here at IMAP we say: the ‘right’ people plus the ‘right’ presentation equals success.

Susan: Sir, I must tell you that my PowerPoint presentation and sell sheets have gotten me meetings with key decision-makers. The features of my product are simple and easily understood, I cannot imagine why CAD tools would be necessary – seems overkill to me.

IMAP: Ma’am our experience has been that simple presentations won’t even get you in the room with the key decision-makers at the big retailers. Amateur presentations just don’t cut it in today’s high-tech world.

Susan: (skeptical) So, have you worked with other inventors like me? What is your success rate? What stores are they selling in now? Also, your headquarters are at 1652 Elm Street in Jacksonville, Florida, right?

IMAP: Great questions, Susan. Yes, indeed, that is our address.

We have worked with hundreds of inventors just like you! Just last week I was in Bentonville to meet with Walmart execs for one of our clients.

Susan: How many people do you have on staff? How many years have you been in business? Lastly, can you give me a list of inventors who have achieved success working with your company whom I can contact for feedback?

IMAP: (a bit annoyed at her questions) We are indeed a large firm and, honestly, I don’t know the exact headcount we have here. Our reputation in the industry is unsurpassed. We have been in business for quite some time now.

Regarding your last question, we have confidentiality agreements with all our clients, so we cannot give out customer name or contact info. I’m sure you understand.

Susan, with IMAP on your team, we can achieve success with your product. Our Gold package can put your product in front of all the key decision-makers at big box retailers to get your product launched for only $14,950.

Susan: Mr. Bigdeelz, I did a bit of research on Intergalactic Marketing and Patents prior to our call today. Would you like to know what I found?

IMAP: (a bit uncertain) Uhhh, sure…


Susan: I checked with the BBB and with the Florida Secretary of State’s office and found no negative reports on your company.

IMAP: (brightening up) Well, of course, I told you we had a stellar reputation in the industry, veterans at helping inventors.

Susan: Well, perhaps the reason is a bit less ‘stellar.’ I discovered that your LLC was filed for that address less than 7 months ago. Doesn’t sound like ‘years’ of business to me. Furthermore, if you have helped ‘hundreds’ of inventors in 7 months you, Mr. Bigdeelz, must be an extremely busy man.

IMAP: (flustered) Uhhh … Why do you say that ma’am?

Susan: I say that because I did a Google search on 1652 Elm Street and zoomed in with the satellite view. I noticed there is just a UPS store at that address with a small laundromat in the adjoining building. There were only two cars parked in front of your address, I’m guessing yours and the receptionist’s cars? You’ve been very busy handling ‘hundreds’ of clients then?

IMAP: Susan, I have a call on hold.

It’s been … umm … a ‘pleasure’ talking with you. I wish you the best of luck with your product. I have to take the other call now. Have a good day!


The above fictional story is a slightly embellished version of a real call I had with a similar firm.  The company had, indeed, been in business for only 7 months as an LLC in Florida. Also, the address was a UPS store – the address was in reality only a PO box.

I was working on behalf of an inventor client who was ready to ‘sign on the dotted line’ with this company for a large sum of money for their ‘services’. After I reported to him the results of my sleuthing, the inventor decided not to proceed with the company.

I saved the inventor thousands of dollars. I charged him nothing for my advice and assistance because I am an inventor also. I only get paid if I am able to help an inventor to successfully license an invention, then I get a portion of future royalties. When (and if) the inventor gets paid, I get paid. It feels like the right way to do business.

Stay tuned.

Posted in Invention, Invention marketing companies, Shysters | Leave a comment

Conversations with an Invention Marketing Shyster – Part I

It seems practically every week, I speak with an inventor with a promising product who has fallen victim to the charms of a invention marketing firm (IMF).

There are two types of IMFs – the legitimate ones that render services intended to help inventors to license their inventions, and all the others – those who seek only to bilk inventors of precious capital in exchange for over-hyped, generic ‘marketing services’ of no value to the inventor.

Unfortunately, the legitimate IMFs are very few in number and the shyster IMFs, who appear much like slugs eating your garden after a spring deluge, seem to be everywhere. Like slugs, every time one of the shysters is squashed, two more spring up to take its place.

This post is about how to recognize the shysters. Part II provides a simple script to ‘smoke them out’ early.

Let’s do a bit of role playing with two inventors – Sam and Susan – and a shyster IMF we’ll call Intergalactic Marketing and Patents (IMAP).

In both cases, IMAP has contacted the inventors, asked them for some information, and is now calling the inventors with ‘good news’ regarding their inventions. Sam is the inventor in the Part I blog post.

Here we go.

IMAP Call to Inventor Sam ————————————————————————-

IMAP: Hello, may I speak with Sam, please?

Sam: This is Sam.

IMAP: Hi, Sam, this is Jim Bigdeelz with Intergalactic Marketing and Patents. I wanted to follow up with you about your widget for close-cropped haircuts. Do your have a few minutes.

Sam (excited): Oh, yes, great to talk with you. What did you think of my product?

IMAP: Sam, I hope you are sitting down.

We reviewed your product and, simply put, we believe it is a home run. We feel your product could sell many millions in the marketplace. We’d love to work with you to get it onto store shelves everywhere, into all the big box retailers. How does that sound to you?

Sam (a bit shocked): Well, that sounds, .. uhh .. great to me.

But, Mr. Bigdeelz, I must tell you, I have spoken with several retailers and, so far, no one seems to have any interest at all. They tell me the benefits of my product are hard to understand, that consumers are unlikely to buy it. It has been a real bummer for me, and I have spent a lot of money. How could you help me?

IMAP: Sam, we hear stories just like yours every day from our clients and it breaks our hearts. Here’s the deal: it is all about knowing the right contacts and also about presenting the right presentation to them.

We have relationships with all the key decision-makers at ‘big box’ retailers. Concerning presentation, prospective companies must be able to visualize your product immediately. This requires advanced CAD tools, like TurboCAD Deluxe for proper 2D and 3D renderings of your product. Here at IMAP w say: the ‘right’ people plus the ‘right’ presentation equals success.

Sam: Wow! I had no idea it was so complicated. All I did was a short PowerPoint presentation. Won’t that work?

IMAP: Sorry, but that won’t even get you in the room with the key decision-makers at the big retailers. Amateur presentations just don’t cut it in today’s high-tech world.

Sam: So, have you worked with other inventors like me? What is your success rate?

IMAP: Great questions, Sam. Yes, we have worked with hundreds of inventors just like you! Just last week I was in Bentonville to meet with Walmart execs for one of our clients.

Sam: That just sounds great! But how much does all this cost to get started with your company?

IMAP: Sam, our full service, Gold package will put your product in front of the right people at all the big box retailers. We can do all of this to get your product launched into stores for only $14,950. What do you say, are you ready to make millions with your product?

Sam: Well, sir. I’d love to make it happen working with you guys, but that is just way above my budget! Thanks for your time, but my wife has already had very serious conversations with me about the money I have spent on credit cards already with this product.

IMAP: Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Sam, let me put you on hold for a couple of minutes, I’ll be right back.

Five minutes later ….

IMAP: Sam, thanks for waiting on hold. I have some really great news for you.

Sam: What is that?

IMAP: Sam, I just spoke privately with Joseph Maxcash, our VP of Product Development about your situation to see if there is anything we can do. He loves your product as much as I do. Here is the good news.

He is prepared to make you a limited-time offering on the Gold package of a single payment of only $8,970 or three monthly payments of just $3,000. Sam, that is a 40% discount off our normal pricing! That is an amazing offer. I can’t remember us offering that kind of discount to anyone in the last 6 months. What do you say to that, can we get you started today?

Sam: Uh…. Mr. Bigdeelz, it sounds like a great deal. But, I would have to talk with my wife and get back to you next week on this.

IMAP: Sam, let me put you on hold for just a couple more minutes.

Sam: Okay.

3 minutes later.

IMAP: Sam, I had one more conversation with Mr. Maxcash on your behalf.

He told me that the best deal we can possibly make is a payment of only $8,225 or just six monthly payments of only $1,380. That is as good as it gets, Sam. Due to special financing, that offer is only available today. That is less than a big screen television.

Sam: Wow, I can’t believe you can offer such a deal, but I still feel I must think about it.

IMAP: Sir, let me ask you one very serious question here.

Sam: Yes, what is that?

IMAP: Do you genuinely believe in your invention and do you truly believe it is a million dollar product?

Sam: Sir, I truly believe in my invention or I would not have put as much money into it as I already have. And, yes, I think it is worth at least $1 million in the marketplace, if not $5 million or more. Why?

IMAP: Well, sir, the steeply discounted price of $8,225 for our full-service Gold package to get you in front of all key retail buyers amounts to less than 1% cost on a $1 million product – it’s like pennies on the dollar.

Honestly, if you don’t have any more faith in your product than that, well, … uhh Betty told me I have another client on hold right now who is ready to get started. So, maybe I better wish you a good day, then.

Sam: Wait, no! Let me go ahead and get started with the first payment of $1,380 on my credit card. It could be my first step on the path to becoming a millionaire.

IMAP: Congratulations on a very wise decision, sir. I look forward to working with you and seeing just how far we can take your product. Betty will go over all the details with you and get your credit card payment.

Stay tuned.

Posted in Invention, Invention marketing companies, Shysters | 1 Comment

Inventor Financial Blunders – and How to Avoid Them

Inventing is a challenging profession: it is capital intensive and many big costs occur in the beginning and the profits, if any, may not come until years later, if ever. Who wants to sign up?

Obviously, I ‘signed up’ or I wouldn’t be writing this blog. Fortunately, I have achieved success and have learned a lot along the way.

Today, I’d like to talk about three big financial blunders many inventors make and how to avoid them:


  • Filing a Utility Patent – too soon
  • Going to QVC without fully preparing or understanding the risks
  • Invention Marketing Companies

Filing a Utility Patent Too Soon

In 2002 I had an idea for a thin, flexible wallet design capable of holding many cards, but comfortable to carry in a back pocket I trademarked as Savvy Caddy – that is now sold in retail stores everywhere as Wonder Wallet. I achieved success by licensing my product, it only took me 13 years.

But, in 2002 I knew nothing about inventing except than I would need to have a patent to “protect my idea.” Like many novice inventors, I rushed out, hired a patent attorney, and filed a utility patent – at a cost of about $5,000.

I would never do such a thing again, however.

It takes a long time – typically 3+ years – for a patent to be issued if your patent is allowed by the US Patent Office (

Often about 2 years after your initial filing, the patent examiner may find a patent very similar to yours. If so, one of two bad things will happen: your patent claims must be trimmed so much only a weak patent will be allowed; or you are allowed no patent at all.

A weak patent has no commercial value as it can easily be worked around without infringing. No patent simply means you have spent $5,000 or more for nothing.

The solution? The solution is to do a lot of due diligence, at minimal cost to you.

First do your own free patent search on of existing patents. Learn how to the use the extensive search tools there by reading info on the site or doing a bit of Google searching. You may find there are already too many items similar to yours and save thousands of dollars as a result.

Assuming your free search still looks encouraging, you may pay Patent Search International to do a professional detailed patent search for you for $250. By taking these two steps, spending a maximum of $250, you will  feel reasonably certain it is worth the expense of a utility patent. Such due diligence has a great ROI for you in that you may save thousands in unnecessary expense and emotional pain.

Going to QVC Without Preparation or Understanding the Risk

My thin wallet product was a perfect product for selling on TV – first QVC than later on DRTV (direct response TV – commercials) and also HSN. QVC is a phenomenal way to gain access to a very large retail market – over 93 million viewers tune in (and buy) regularly from QVC.

But, if a QVC buyer chooses to “buy” your product, she will issue you a PO for roughly $50,000 – $75,000 worth of retail product (they buy at wholesale, of course). Your risk lies in the fact that the PO reflects a commitment to pay you only for what you actually sell on QVC – whether it is $100 or $10,000+.

During the two years I was on QVC, I saw many “one and done” vendors who exited the stage in tears after selling $200 in product from a $5,000 PO. They knew that $4,800 of product was going to be shipped back to them. You must have a plan B in case sales on QVC don’t go as planned.

Before I went on QVC for the first time, I watched hundreds of vendors present their products on QVC and carefully observed what worked well and what flopped.

I realized that even though the average QVC airing is perhaps 5 minutes long, the vendor, at best, may get 2 minutes to speak (the host will talk a lot). So, I carefully honed a brief 2 minute presentation that included three different product demos. That preparation paid off handsomely – in one presentation I sold over $7,000 per minute (quite good for wallets). Prepare or despair!

Invention Marketing Companies

I have written more than a few blog posts about the hazards of invention marketing companies – most of which are hucksters anxious to separate you from your hard earned capital. Their pitch is always the same:

  • They have relationships with all the ‘big box’ retailers
  • For a ‘small’ investment from you (typically $10,000 – $20,000) they will make you a success

The reality is that no one can predict with certainty how well – or poorly – any new product will fare in the marketplace until it is rolled out and tested.

Remember New Coke, Coors Rocky Mountain Spring Water, Pepsi A.M. or the Apple Newton? All were highly anticipated, huge product launches that failed.

The quickest way to ‘smoke out’ any company that approaches you to market your product for a substantial fee is to ask three simple questions of them:

  1. Why, specifically do you think my product is great? Who are the 3 biggest competitors?
  2. If I work with you, what will be the first three steps you would take with my product and why?
  3. Could you please give me 3 to 5 names and phone numbers of other inventors who have had success with you so I can contact them?

If you ask any of these questions of a typical huckster invention marketing company, the only answer you will hear is crickets.

They will be very anxious to get you off the phone. I have tested this and I guarantee that will be the result. But you will have some fun and save $10,000 in the process. That is an excellent ROI!


Stay tuned.

Posted in Capital risk, DRTV, Due diligence, HSN, Invention, Invention failure, Invention marketing companies, Patent Search, Patent Search International, Patents, QVC, Sell on TV | Leave a comment

Inventing – The Road(s) Not Traveled

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

The above poem,one of the most oft quoted from poet Robert Frost, resonates with millions more than 100 years after it was written.

Inventing – The Road(s) Not Traveled (less taken)

I particularly appreciate that choosing to be an inventor – not as a hobby or for weekend tinkering – but as a full-time career, as I have chosen to do, is truly a road less taken (excuse my taking liberties with the poetry to fit my needs).

I struggled for over 5 years doing whatever I had to do to keep my business afloat pursuing my dream of turning my product, then called Savvy Caddy thin wallets, into a commercial success as Wonder Wallet today.

My circuitous course seemed destined, not to success, but rather  bankruptcy, as I worked long hours, 7 days per week, while falling further into debt. But, I simply refused to give up on my product and its potential and, in the end, I achieved success.

Today I am supremely grateful that, for me, that path has indeed ‘made all the difference’ in my life.

Other Paths Less Taken …

Sometimes inventors fail to recognize that there are more than two paths available to them in pursuing their dreams. The two paths most focus upon are:

  • Building a business around their invention – manufacturing and marketing it themselves
  • Licensing their invention to a manufacturer in exchange for royalty payments based upon sales

Often, however, things don’t work out and neither of the above paths are available to the inventor.

  1. Sometimes another inventor already owns an patent for a very similar item, minimizing your chance to obtain a patent. With no patent, you will not be able to license the product.
  2. Sometimes the field is crowded with many long expired patents – prior art – so you cannot obtain a patent. Here again, no patent for you and slim odds on licensing the product.

In such circumstances, you feel crushed, the product you have put so much time, emotion, and energy into has no chance for success.

Unless …. like Robert Frost, you discover a road not taken.

To Patent or Not to Patent, That is the Question

Now I must apologize to Shakespeare for again hijacking poetry for my own purposes.

In scenario 1 above, it is useful to do some detective work, trolling the marketplace and the website. Is the product being sold anywhere in the marketplace (most often, it is not)? Also, how long ago did the patent issue?

Why not offer to buy all patent rights from the inventor? He or she may have spent years and thousands of dollars attempting to market the invention to no avail. He or she might accept a small payment – perhaps $3,000 – $5,000 – to transfer all patent (and trademark) rights to you. Then, their patent becomes yours without having to travel the maze of the US Patent system. You just need to feel certain that you have a path forward to more success than they found.

In scenario 2 above, you also can be in a position to manufacture and sell your invention –  without worries of infringement of any active patent. There are thousands of products sold in the marketplace that are not patented, often because they cannot be patented.

Inventors are naturally creative people, but sometimes they forget to apply their creativity towards marketing their inventions.

Maybe you should consider taking a road less traveled by….

Stay tuned.

Posted in Career choices, Creativity, Ideas, Innovation, Invention, Licensing, Marketing, Patents, Road not traveled, Robert Frost, Setbacks | Leave a comment

Is Your ‘Great’ Invention Really a Great Product?

Every day thousands of inventors have that ‘aha’ moment when they wake up, take a shower, or are driving to work: that next great invention – the world awaits!

Your inspired idea might truly have the makings of a great invention:

  • Offers a new, innovative solution to an annoying problem
  • Could be packaged and sold to consumers everywhere

Unfortunately, many great inventions are not great products. Inventors may spend years developing a truly elegant invention only to find they cannot sell it: because it doesn’t meet the requirements of a great product!

What Makes a ‘Perfect’ Consumer Product?

The perfect consumer product is somewhat akin to a unicorn – a mythical, magical fantasy beast that doesn’t exist in real life. But it is possible to list the key factors of a perfect consumer product – a sort of scorecard – then to compare your invention to see how well it stacks up (or doesn’t).

In no particular order, here are key elements for the perfect consumer product:

  1. Sells to almost all  males/boys
  2. Sells to almost all females/girls
  3. Sells for $19.95 or less at retail stores
  4. Takes up minimal shelf space – lots can fit on a small shelf
  5. Benefits are immediately obvious – little or no explanation required
  6. Solves an annoying problem in a simple, elegant way
  7. Is not seasonal – sells year round
  8. High consumption factor – consumers use and buy again frequently

As mentioned, no single product checks all of the above boxes, but strong consumer products match up to many of the above.

To illustrate, let’s consider two different products and see how they score on the 8 parameters above:

  • A ‘sippy’ cup that allows toddlers to drink with no risk of spilling the contents
  • A floating beverage holder for a swimming pool or other water event for adults

Regarding the sippy cup, it could easily sell to parents of male or female children, could easily sell for less than $19,95, doesn’t take up much shelf space, the benefits are obvious, does solve an annoying problem, is not seasonal, but might not be ‘consumed’ multiple times per year. Therefore, the net score is 7 out of 8 points possible – very good! The sippy cup would appear to be a great invention and a great consumer product.

Even though the beverage holder is similar in many respects to the sippy cups, it doesn’t score very well as a perfect consumer product:

It doesn’t sell to all or most males and females (only those who own swimming pools or are very aquatically active. Zero points so far. It could sell for less than $19.95, take up little shelf space, the benefits would be obvious, and would solve an annoying problem. Score is now 4 points. Unfortunately, it is definitely seasonal (summertime mostly) and it wouldn’t be consumed and reused frequently. Final score is 4 points. The floating beverage holder could be a great invention, but not likely a great consumer product.

Know Your Niches

You may ask, “don’t niche items often sell very well?” Does a consumer product really have to sell to nearly everyone to achieve success? Niche items sometimes sell very well, but you must know your niches – it is always more challenging to sell to a niche. Some niches are great, others are not so great.

For example, tennis is a popular recreational sport for many people – about 18 million play tennis each year and spend about $487 million for equipment. Approximately 29 million play golf each year with the average golfer having an average household income of $95,000. Given that statistic, if your niche product sells to golfers, you likely have a much stronger market than if it sells to tennis players.

Make sure your great invention can also be a great product!

Stay tuned.

Posted in Invention | Leave a comment

Machu Picchu Adventure

I apologize that more time has elapsed since my last post that I usually allow. It has been almost three weeks. Yikes!

But, I have good reason.

On April 3 I left for an almost two week vacation with my kids (Victoria – 25 and Michael – 29) to southern Peru. This was a vacation I had planned for over a year, a chance for me to finally visit South America, to take my children along, and more particularly to see Cusco, Sacsayhuaman, and especially the ancient Incan temple of Machu Picchu.

The Andean High Life: 9,000 – 12,000 feet Elevation

We first arrived in Cusco, the longest continually inhabited city in the Western Hemisphere – over 800 years. Cusco, the capital of the once sprawling Incan empire (extended along virtually the entire western coast of South America in its heyday), is today a sprawling city itself with close to 500,000 residents. At 10,800 feet elevation, I found myself huffing and puffing when climbing long sets of stairs and various hills scattered about the city – even though I am in good physical shape (for a 61-year old).

We quickly decamped to lower elevation, via a Colectivo bus, to the Sacred Valley town of Ollantaytambo, at a mere 9,100 feet elevation. The gushing rapids of the Urubamba River flows throughout the Sacred Valley. Very early the next morning we took the Peru Rail train to Aguas Calientes, at the foot of the Machu Picchu temple area.

We spent most of the day hiking up (a lot) and down over the ruins and ancient relics of Machu Picchu. We managed sun for about two hours after which the fog and then rain set in, but we made the best of it. The craftsmanship of the stone work from the mid-1400s with huge boulders carved and fitted as tight as a credit card was amazing to behold. I’m not sure we could accomplish such a feat today. The Incans were also great agrarians: they developed well over 1,000 different varieties of potatoes!

We returned to Cusco via Inca Rail train and another Colectivo bus (transport in southern Peru is quite good – though trains are pricey). We checked out all sorts of restaurants and had our share of Cusquena beer and Pisco Sours (really great), even a bit of coca tea (it does seem to give you energy for the high elevations). We also hiked up to Sacsayhuaman perhaps 1,000 feet above Cusco – another amazing archaeological site. One huge block at this site weighed an estimated 100 tons!

Next we took a 6 hour bus ride down to Puno in the Lake Titicaca area, via the Cruz del Sur bus. Cruz del Sur buses traverse quite an extensive network in South America and feature seat back entertainment (like airlines) and wide, comfortable reclining seats (not like airlines) – truly luxury on a budget. Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America and the highest navigable lake in the world at 12,500 feet elevation (more huffing and puffing was in order).

We finished our vacation with a couple days on Lake Titicaca visiting Uros Islands (which float entirely on reeds), Amantani Island (where we spent a night with a family) and also Taquile Island. Here, the natives speak not Spanish, but either Aymara or Quechua (the main language of the Incan empire).

We returned to Cusco via bus, then flew back home via Lima and Cancun.

I hope you enjoyed my little diversion into a travel vignette. I got to polish my Spanish (a lot) and gained a new appreciation for having a heater in my home. In the high elevation Andean plains, temperatures fall into the 30s and 40s at night, no one has heat, just heavy blankets on their beds.

A Call to Action


Here is my call to action to you.

Going on an exotic vacation may be expensive, but I’ll bet it is not nearly as expensive as you might imagine. Many people spend far more on a boat that never leaves the house or a luxurious big-screen television.

Remember, an entrepreneur is a person who works when most people are relaxing, does things most don’t want to do, so that later he/she may do things most people cannot.

Instead of watching an exotic locale on your TV, why not make plans for your next adventure. I can assure you three things:

  1. Your can afford it if it is a priority to you
  2. You will have priceless memories long after you return home
  3. You will never regret it

Aren’t you and those you love worth it?

Stay tuned.

Posted in Adventure, Cusco, Invention, Lake Titicaca, Machu Picchu, Peru | Leave a comment

Inventors – Why Your Friends are Your Worst Enemies

For over fourteen years, I made a living, first part-time and now full-time, from creative endeavors, most especially, inventing. It took me a few years to realize that many of foundational values of the corporate world, don’t work well at all in the inventing, creative world of product development. I eagerly learned new skills, but unlearning old precepts was difficult.

New Rules for the Inventor to Live By

Here are three new rules you must consider if you want to be a successful inventor:

  1. Your Friends are Your Worst Enemies
  2. Your Enemies are Your Best Friends
  3. Perception = Reality


How can I possibly suggest that your friends could be your worst ‘enemies’?

Let me illustrate with a story every parent has experienced. Your son’s team just lost a big soccer game against their cross-town rivals. When the rival team scored the winning goal against your son, the goalie, he felt humiliated, the whole team felt let down – they felt like “losers.” Indeed they were, but losers of one soccer game, not losers in life.

At that moment, the coach went to his car and gave everyone on the team a small trophy – a participation trophy. The team members felt happier for that moment. Because the coach felt their collective sadness and everyone had played so hard, he just wanted to make them all feel better.

But, really, he was in that moment not their best friend, but rather their worst enemy. They needed a stinging defeat to learn the lesson that life is tough and playing/working hard is essential but, hard work by itself can never guarantee success – in soccer or in the workplace. The enabling coach snatched that lesson away from them and in it’s place gave them the empty feeling of meritless trophies.

Unfortunately, adults receive such trophies all the time.

When you excitedly told your friends and colleagues about your new invention did any of them tell you it was a bad idea or simply say “I don’t get it, why would anyone buy this product?” I’m betting not.

Instead they probably said, “that’s interesting.” Or worse: “wow, that’s great, such a good idea, I wished I had thought of it!” Friends, colleagues and often loved ones will never honestly critique your invention, they don’t want to hurt your feelings. But you need honest critiques, not fawning praise or admiration, which leads me to my next point:

Your Enemies are Your Best Friends

More accurately stated, critics are an inventor’s best friends.

Why? They give you their honest, unadulterated opinions about your invention, whether it is positive or negative. Like the kid on the soccer field, you do not want to hear there is anything wrong with your fantastic invention.

But, their criticism may be right on target. Perhaps your price point is too high. If so, your sales and profits will suffer. Maybe your product is too complicated and will confuse prospective buyers. Confused people do not buy. It could be that your product seems very similar to other products in the marketplace.

The good news is you can fix all of these problems if you are aware of them.

By substituting  cheaper materials, your costs may be reduced substantially – many products that sell briskly at $19.95, will languish and die on shelves at $29.95. Maybe you can simplify your product to essential elements, reducing complexity and cost. Lastly, it may need to be differentiated more clearly from other products to sell successfully. Going ‘back to the drawing board’ can often be the best thing for your product and for you.

All of the above assumes that your critics are right.

What if they are wrong and you are right? It happens all the time, it happened to me. But every criticism has at least a grain of truth to it, leading me to my final point.

Perception = Reality

If critics perceive your product is too big/expensive/confusing – they may be completely wrong, but here is the problem. What if a lot of other prospective buyers have the same perceptions? People make buying decisions based on feelings and perceptions, not on facts. This is why perceptions, whether right or wrong, become reality. For much more information on this, read Buyology by Martin Lindstrom.

My invention, the Wonder Wallet has been a big success in the marketplace. But it took me a very long time to make that happen. Why? People perceived that it was too big to fit in their pocket – because it is a bit larger in physical size than other wallets. They were, of course, wrong and I knew they were wrong. It made me angry, to be honest.

But, because perception = reality, I wasted years attempting to get my wallets directly into retail stores. In such stores, many buyers would think the wallets were too big, unless I could somehow educate them otherwise. I had to take a different path to find success.

When I took the wallet onto QVC it sold very well, because I could show buyers how it worked and then viewers knew it wasn’t too big. When it was later advertised via thousands of television commercials via DRTV, all those same retailers were happy to take my product. Perception = reality may mean you must make a course adjustment to achieve success with your product. I learned, albeit the hard way, and so can you.

Stay tuned.


Posted in Attitude, Behaviors of success, Benefits are easily demonstrated, Criticism, Critiquing ideas, Dealing with rejection, Disappointments, DRTV, Invention, Inventor enemies, Inventor friends, Paths for your product, Perception = reality, QVC, Rejection, Sell on TV, Strategy, Turning setbacks into success | Leave a comment

Inventor’s Story: from the Pits to a Peak

I decided to tell a bit of my personal story because I think mirrors the experiences of many entrepreneurs and, especially, inventors. I will set the stage a bit like a novel with three different timeframes and what was going on in my life during each.

September 2009

I had left a full time job in telecom to finally sell my invention – Savvy Caddy thin wallets on QVC.

I had devoted every free minute during the last 7 years to develop and sell my wallets in flea markets, fairs, online, wherever I could. But, working 55 hours per week in telecom left few hours for rest, and fewer hours for working my invention business. The Savvy Caddy venture had languished as a result.

QVC represented a real opportunity to revive my business and take it to the next level. I excitedly took the leap to go full-time in my business, to finally leave the stress and bureaucracy of the corporate world behind. I knew it would take some time, maybe 3 years, for my business to pay what I had earned in telecom, but I was ready to take a chance.

March 2013 – The Pits

QVC had been good, over 2 years, I had sold over 5,000 wallets. But that was far from enough to keep me and my business afloat. My choices were limited, I had borrowed to keep my business afloat and pay the bills. My business and personal debt had ballooned to over $100,000. I felt I was in a dark tunnel and thought I might never get out of debt or to any kind of financial stability. The corporate world didn’t seem so bad after all by comparison.

I became a sort of traveling salesman, selling Savvy Caddy wallets at AAFES military bases in San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and Shreveport. Every week, I worked two days a week as a business counselor. Then, I hit the road for 5 days to sell at an AAFES military base (most of the time in San Antonio). On weekends, I sold my wallets at gun shows. I was working 7 days per week, 12 – 15 hours per day selling as much as I could whenever I could to keep the lights on and the bills paid – barely. I spent more time on the road than at home every month.

I wrote in my journal (slightly redacted):

I am at Randolph Air Force Base, it is cold and raining and hardly anyone in the BX except for me and other vendors. I have sold 2 wallets all day long, wow, $50. Here are my thoughts:

  • Being away from home all the time is stressful, no fun at all.
  • Traveling so much racks up travel and living expenses even when wallet sales aren’t good.
  • I am getting older and being on the run, with poor diet, no exercise and little sleep is taking a toll on me.
  • I’m barely making ends meet each week and each month.
  • If I were truly sick or ill for a week it would be a financial disaster for me and my business.

March 2016 – The Peak

In three short years things had changed dramatically for the better.

I worked hard to finally license my wallet design to a large infomercial company. They marketed the wallets, now called Wonder Wallet, in just about every retail store across the US and many in Canada and internationally. My royalty checks allowed me to do wonderful things like pay off all my business and personal debt, give more significantly to charitable causes and take a nice trip – to Australia for three weeks.

I wrote in my journal:

I’m in Cairns, Australia and my Aussie adventure is nearly complete.

Yesterday, I went out on a boat and snorkeled around the Great Barrier Reef. It was gorgeous and amazing to see. When I was in Sydney for 3 days, I drank a few brews in The Rocks district, had dinner one night at a restaurant where I roasted my own steak over a barbecue bit. I went to the Outback and visited Ayers Rock. Then out to Perth on the west coast – a gorgeous place.

I came back to Melbourne and enjoyed a few brews on the Yarra River with friends. Next I went to Brisbane, and finally to Cairns. Tomorrow it’s back to Sydney and a 16 hour flight back to Dallas-Ft. Worth. Life is good, mate!

My Conclusion

I hope my story inspires inventors to try again, to not give up. I don’t recommend you follow my path, but if you work hard enough, you can indeed live a life many can barely imagine and will never achieve. To me, that is work some risk and a lot of effort.


Stay tuned.


Posted in Attitude, Behaviors of success, Criticism, Dealing with rejection, Disappointments, Invention, Keys to Success, Rejection, Setbacks, Strategy, Turning setbacks into success | Leave a comment